Positive thinking can improve our wellbeing and create a healthier perspective of life, but it is not a magical fix for every problem or challenging circumstance in our lives. It is common within the helping professions, such as counselling and psychology, to challenge a clients negative thought patterns. This approach is used with clients when appropriate and always with sensitivity. If you experience constant negative thoughts, how you perceive all areas of you life may be coloured by this. Learning to engage in positive self talk is helpful when self-esteem is low due to damaging and negative self talk.
This blog is a little different to my previous ones, in that it is more of a personal observation. Recently I have worked with a number of clients and spoken to close friends that have shared experiences of positive thinking being used in such a way that it caused distress, and that was dismissive of their current circumstances and feelings. I have witnessed individuals condescend to another in pain by telling them to think more positively when faced with traumatic events. I can imagine that many proponents of positive psychology would be left aghast at the way in which this approach is being wielded by some, in a way that it was never intended to be used.
As Abraham Maslow said, “…I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
Engaging in the practice of positive thinking can be a great way to improve your wellbeing. Experiencing constant negative thoughts can impact on your overall wellbeing and your perspective on your life. It is hard to stay motivated when you are constantly experiencing negative thinking. Negative self talk can have a devastating impact on self-esteem, and working towards a more positive personal narrative can assist in improving your mental health.
Practising daily positive thinking can build up new helpful pathways in your brain and it can become a healthy new habit. If you want to change habitual negative thinking to positive thinking, it is important to know that it may take self-reflection, practice, time and repetition to change the habitual way you think. Also, it is not about never experiencing a negative thought ever again.
Imagine experiencing circumstances in your life like the loss of a relationship or a job. You are feeling stressed, sad or angry about what has happened so you reach out to another. But, all you hear is that you need to think more positively, that you have attracted your current circumstances because you need to ‘think positive’ to attract all the good things. So, because you are thinking wrong everything is your own fault? NO! No amount of positive thinking will allow you to control the actions of another person. No amount of positive thinking will prevent the company you work for from downsizing and making employees redundant. If you think every circumstance in your life is your fault because you are not thinking positively enough, this creates even move negative thinking.
Using positive thinking to increase your motivation and self belief is a helpful approach. As time passes, developing a way to gain a positive perspective on these types of experiences when reflecting on what has occurred is healthy. However, using your lack of positive thinking as the reason that things are not going well is unhelpful. This can increase negative self talk, and berating yourself will not do anything to improve your self-esteem.
If someone reaches to out to another in a time of distress or trauma, to be told ‘think positively’, is dismissive, shows a lack of empathy, and is potentially dangerous to someone experiencing depression, grief or who has been traumatised. It is another way of telling someone to ‘get over it’. It communicates to someone that you don’t want to hear what the other wants to say and that you are uninterested in what they are going through. It tells them that the emotions they are experiencing will go away if they change the way they think.
Imagine experiencing a traumatic event or grieving the loss of someone, and you reach out to another, seeking an empathetic ear in your difficult time. Instead, you are told to ‘think positively’. These are the kind of experiences that my clients have shared with me. Clients have told me of the additional distress that this has caused them. It can be challenging to know what to say to another who is sharing their experiences or feelings with you. It is important thing to know that if another is sharing their pain with you, what they want is to be heard and to know that their feelings matter. So, if you are a fan of positive thinking and it has made your life better, understand that there are times when suggesting another thinks more positively is appropriate, and other times when it is not.
Joy, sadness, anger, excitement, disappointment, love and many other emotions and feelings are all a part of our human existence. When I hear the way in which some individuals extol positive thinking as a way of being, it conjures up images of a ‘Stepford Wife’ kind of existence.
If you are someone who has reached out to another in times of stress, pain or trauma and been told to think positively, please, do not let this hold you back from opening up to someone else.
If you are experiencing challenges such as stress, anxiety, panic, trauma, grief or any emotions or feelings you need assistance with, do not think you have to work through things by yourself. Some things you may be able to address yourself. However, sometimes we can benefit from additional support and assistance. Can you reach out to a supportive friend or family member and talk things through? Or, talking with a counsellor or other helping professional may assist you in finding your own way to work with your challenges.
If there are issues and circumstances that you need support and assistance to work through, please contact me for an obligation free, confidential discussion as to how I may be able to assist you. I am a counsellor (Member ACA), a clinical hypnotherapist (Clinical member AHA), yoga and meditation teacher. I specialise in Stress, Anxiety, Panic Attacks and other related challenges. Phone, Skype, WhatsApp and Messenger sessions are available.
Inner Mind Therapies
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